Study Finds Shortage of Credentialed Workers in NE Ohio

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Northeastern Ohio lags when it comes to producing enough credentialed workers necessary to staff the number of jobs available in some of the higher-paying economic sectors, according to a recent study.

The report, “Aligning Opportunities in Northeast Ohio,” compiled by the Cleveland Foundation and Team Northeast Ohio, or Team NEO, shows that the supply of qualified workers in the region isn’t keeping pace with demand for occupations in manufacturing, engineering, information technology, health care and finance.

“We’re not saying colleges and universities aren’t offering the right types of degrees,” said Jacob Duritsky, vice president of strategy and research at Team NEO. “We’re saying students and workers aren’t necessarily going into those fields.”

This disconnect is most glaring among three major sectors of the regional economy: information technology, skilled manufacturing and high-level health care professions, Duritsky said. He presented the findings during a media briefing with the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber Thursday morning.

The study shows that there aren’t enough qualified workers in northeastern Ohio to fill job demand in 11 of the 18 businesses sectors selected in the report. Only those jobs that paid “family sustaining wages” were considered, so lower level service jobs aren’t factored into the study.

“We are underproducing based on demand,” Duritsky said.

According to the report, there were 5,995 post-secondary degrees related to information technology across an 18-county area in northeastern Ohio in 2014. However, there were 16,638 job opportunities available in 2015 that required some sort of post-secondary training in IT.

“Although we don’t think of northeast Ohio as necessarily an IT economy, IT is embedded in so much of what we do in finance, health care and insurance,” Duritsky said.

The high-end health-care sector, which includes nurses, physical therapists and physicians, shows a large disparity between the number of jobs available and those in the employment pool, the report shows. In 2014, 11,273 such degrees were issued opposed to 20,122 openings.

In manufacturing, there was demand for 5,538 skilled-production workers – that is, repair technicians and those with advanced manufacturing skills – but just 3,112 certifications were awarded.

Three sectors – construction trade workers, health technologists and technicians, and architects and engineering technicians – are in line with workforce supply and job opportunities, the report said.

The report shows that four other segments – skilled-worker management, professional managers, life science professions and health therapist aids and support industries – have more credentialed workers in the market than there are available jobs.

The challenge is to intervene early in a student’s academic life and get them thinking about pursuing a career where the job needs are most prevalent, Duritsky said.

“If we can figure this out and offer solutions and engage the business community, workforce and education in this conversation, this can be a competitive advantage for this region,” he said.

Duritsky cited statistics showing that by 2020, 65% of jobs will require some sort of post-secondary credential. The report says that 46% of residents in northeastern Ohio have no post-secondary education, while another 33% possess some post-secondary degree, but not in a field where workers are in great demand. About 21% attained some college experience, but no degree.

“The region continues to add net new jobs year after year,” Duritsky said. “We are growing, and there are significant number of openings.”

Therefore, it’s imperative that the public is aware of the direction the employment market is trending and which jobs are likely to be available in the future, added Sarah Boyarko, the Regional Chamber’s senior vice president of economic development.

Boyarko said that first step of the Regional Chamber’s JobsNow program is to advertise what jobs are available and the growth potential of these industries in the future. “They can look at where they can find that educational opportunity to get into that field.”

Nick Santucci, the Chamber’s manager of education and workforce development, reported there are 12,796 jobs in the Mahoning Valley posted on the Ohio Means Jobs website.

The Team NEO data show trends that are similar in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, Santucci said. Thus training at all levels is an important component of building a strong workforce that meets the demands of regional employers.

The Regional Chamber’s Community Connectors program, for example, is designed to specifically address soft skills such as building a resume and coaching them on the job interview process.

“Once we’re comfortable with their skill-set level, we want to place them in a real job,” Santucci said. “We’re giving them a real world opportunity to work, but the ultimate idea is to apply that. Those skills that you learn from your first job are essential to the next step. We’re trying to encourage that.”

Pictured: Team NEO’s Jacob Duritsky, vice president of strategy and research, presented the results of the “Aligning Opportunities in Northeast Ohio” study to the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber Thursday.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.